Byron's Babbles

You Will Just Have To Accept This! Why?

file 6I have always believed we need to always refuse to accept the existing reality. I really believe this in our personal lives, organizations we work in, state, nation, and world. My thinking was affirmed when reading A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas by Warren Berger this past weekend. He told the story of Van Phillips. This amazing and inspiring story is about the person that invented the mind-blowing “blade runner” prosthetic device.  When Phillips lost his leg in a boating accident, he could have asked the usual question.  Why me?  Instead he went further, asking “If they can put a man on the moon, why can’t they make a decent foot?”  Then he took ownership of the question:  How can I make a better foot? It’s easy, when we’re confronted with a challenge that seems insurmountable to ask “what are we going to do?”  Or… worse yet, to just accept that is the we it has to be. What if, we ask, “why does it have to be that way. Or… better yet, what if, instead we asked “What if this change represents an opportunity for us?”

AMBQ-Hardcover-Paperback_edited-1-768x634In this great book, Berger, incorporates a wide array of examples and his three question framework of innovation: Why, What if, and How. Plenty of innovation has started with questions, many of which are downright strange. Warren Berger’s definition of a beautiful question is, “an ambitious yet actionable question that can begin to shift the way we perceive or think about something—and that might serve as a catalyst to bring about change.” We need to remember that questions trump answers, every time.

As leaders, we would all be better served to practice divergent thinking and encourage our teams to think and question this way as well. Divergent thinking is the intellectual ability to think of many original, diverse and elaborate ideas. This type of thinking is associated with the right brain dominant, which is seeing things in a perceptual manner. In other words asking, “Why does it have to be this way?” This is in contrast to convergent thinking which is the ability to logically evaluate and choose the best idea from a selection of ideas. This type of thinking is associated with the left brain dominant, which is seeing things in an analytical manner.
We need to develop the capacity in ourselves and those we lead to produce many, or a greater number of complicated or complex ideas from a single idea or “why does it have to be this way?” question to trigger more ideas. It calls for making unexpected combinations, changing information into unanticipated forms, identifying connections among remote associates, and the like. In divergent thinking, a single question returns multiple answers, and though the answers vary considerably depending on the person, all answers are of equal value. Perhaps they did not exist ever before and so are novel, surprising or unusual. Now, this is not to say we need only divergent thinkers because we will need the convergent and linear thinkers to help us accomplish our goals.
Asking the powerful question “why?” forces people to think deep. They can then peel back the layers of excuses and get to the root cause of the problem. Asking “why” seems easy enough. It’s just a little word, after all. So, why don’t leaders ask this powerful question more often? Probing deep can be scary for a leader. It smells of confrontation and hints of accusation. It also is giving up some authority and asks others to weigh in. Many leaders are also accustomed to and want to be the go-to person for answers. They’re used to giving direction and opinion. It makes them feel valued, important and reinforces their position of authority. Also, some leaders prefer to deliver the answers because they think it will save precious time. Unfortunately, when leaders routinely dish out the answers, they become enablers of that dysfunctional cycle, which is actually a huge time-waster. Employees regularly seek out leadership for the solution rather than being leaders where they are and becoming problem-solvers. This prevents the ability to develop real solutions, stifles employee growth and ultimately limits company productivity. Remember, leadership should be happening where the data is produced.
The best leaders are those who understand that asking “why” is a highly productive teaching method. Teaching – true professional growth – and challenging people to think is what stimulates discovery, solutions and growth. So, the goal of any leader is to become a great teacher and develop the necessary skills. This includes not only asking “why”, but then also giving employees the autonomy to ask “why” and the appropriate amount of time to determine the real answer. Remember, we all live in the world our questions create!

Great Leadership: Offering Up Something Better Than The Status Quo

file 3As a school leader it is my most important role to find the right solutions that are best for students. People will then buy into solutions that are developed collaboratively. I believe the staff will buy in if we offer up something that is better than the status quo.

In order to move the staff, a community of continual learning where everyone is a leader must be developed. The following are guidelines that need to be followed for effective adult learning and motivation to take place:

  • Learning needs to be frequent and sustained over time
  • There must be connected and coherent learning sessions
  • Opportunities for teachers and staff to practice and reflect on new learning must be afforded
  • Opportunities must be available to tap into expertise or prior knowledge
  • Clear and reasonable objectives must be provided
  • Adults need challenging tasks
  • Respect of the risks involved in new learning need to be recognized; in other words, it is o.k. to fail.
  • Choice and flexibility is important to adults
  • Collaboration
  • Regular coaching and feedback are provided
  • Focus everything on academic content
  • Letting staff problem solve will motivate them to learnfile 5

I believe two things will really help here:

  1. The notion of empathy  – of really listening to your staff and understanding their views and what they need.
  2. The idea that innovation lives as much within the way you define problems as the way you generate solutions

Additionally, I believe in an intent-based leadership style where everyone is considered a leader. With this style of leadership, authority is shifted to where the information/data is generated. In other words, teachers would be empowered to act on both data and new thinking. But… for this empowerment to work there must be the professional development necessary to make sure that teachers have the skills necessary to utilize this empowerment.

These skills are two-fold:

  1. Technical Competency
  2. Organizational Clarity

We must feed our leaders by:

  1. Committing to leadership development
  2. Making it a priority to give professional growth time to developing leaders

Finally, it is crucial to treat all teachers as leaders!

This all really will produce a happier, healthier, and more engaged staff.

Loyalty: Leveraging Your Expertise

Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 9.59.29 PMI am a major fan and student of the late Peter Drucker. He certainly understood both management and how to lead people. One of my favorite quotes (and I have many) of his is, “Never push loyal people to the point where they do not give a damn.” Loyalty has long been valued by leaders. The problem is that many times organizations use and abuse this loyalty to stifle their best leaders into status quo or just going with what the organizations top leaders want to do, or not do.

Unfortunately, the more authoritarian and dogmatic the leader, the more they prize loyalty in their followers. Dictators, both political and organizational, love to surround themselves with “yes-men and women,” eager to prove their loyalty by saying whatever the person in power will find most acceptable. The pressure to fit into and organization led like this is particularly tough for the most talented and strongest leaders. Suppressing these unpleasant realities can be overwhelming. This, what I will call forced loyalty, stifles creativity and discourages people’s willingness to speak the truth about their leaders, themselves, their organizations, or their work. I’ve seen so many cases where too much unquestioning loyalty meant important issues were suppressed until it was too late. This is why I am such a believer in an intent-based and participatory led organization where questioning of authority (short of defiance), may be essential if we’re not to lose our way.Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 9.53.07 PM

So, I believe Peter Drucker was warning us not to just force our team members to have blind trust and loyalty just because they work for us. I hate it when leaders say, “You are a part of this organization, school, or company so just be a team player and conform.” I believe this pushes team members to, as Drucker said, “not give a damn.” I say, “All the more reason for us to want to make improvements and challenge the status quo.” Particularly when these improvements and challenges are in line with the core values of the organizations. In an organization where divergent ideas and open dissent are encouraged, loyalty is actually increased.

Loyalty has become a very precious resource. Some organizations and leaders still excel at cultivating remarkable loyalty within their teams. Nobody likes to work for a phony. In past decades, it was more common for employees to tolerate insincere and ineffective leaders. What we really want are authentic leaders. We need to put a greater premium on authenticity. Authentic leaders can be counted on to say what they mean and do what they say. They’re the same person to their staff, their own superiors, their customers, and their partners. When you’re authentic, your words and actions align with who you claim to be. Your followers shouldn’t be compelled to spend time trying to figure out if you have ulterior motives.

How are you leading your team toward excellence? Are you authentic in your leadership? Do your words and actions align with who you claim to be?

Letting My Lite Shine

file1-2A couple of weeks ago at one of our Focused Leader Academy (FLA) retreats I was asked by participants to do a session about how to balance the amount of personal information that should be mixed with our professional lives. This can be particularly tricky in education. Of course I said sure, but I had no idea how challenging of a topic I had taken on. As I began to study I realized that there was not much out there on the topic except for people who thought you should reveal everything and those who thought you should reveal nothing. I wasn’t sure I agreed with either of those theories.

file-1 2Therefore, me being me, I decided to develop my own program from scratch with all my own thoughts for getting the discussion started. I really like to use a through line and some type of building or creating to get the process started. After quite a bit of thinking I decided to use Lite Brite® as the through line and creation activity. I purchased one of the flat screen LED Lite Brites® for all the participants. Hopefully you can all remember the Lite Brite® toy and have had the opportunity to create a picture on one.file-2 2

Mavin Glass introduced Lite Brite® in 1967. It was an electric alternative to painting. To me this was a genius toy to use for this topic. The black paper acts as a filter. Just as we have to filter out what we message/reveal at times. The filter element makes the picture worth a thousand words. The black paper which blocks a portion of the light acts as Lite Brite’s® filter. Without the black paper, the pegs poked in would blend in, leaving and indistinct message. It is not about letting all light out, but what light is limited. This is like asking the question: What is relevant and what is unimportant?

As leaders we must choose delivery design and place our pegs in a way people will understand our message. We have to design how much light to let through and design the picture in such a way it tells our leadership story. Remember, simplicity is not stupidity; instead it causes a better understanding. Lite Brite® is such a simple toy, but gives us such a great example of developing a balance of how much light to shed and how much of our true colors to reveal. The Lite Brite® bulb symbolizes our message – our thoughts, words, beliefs and ideas that we want others to know. The pegs then symbolize our points. Just as the pegs are colorful and beautiful, so are the differences that we bring into the world.

“It is simplicity that makes the uneducated more effective than the educated when addressing popular audiences.” ~ Aristotle

To begin our discussion I had the FLA participants take their Lite Brites® and make a picture by either using templates provided or a picture created by them. Here is a picture of all of their Lite Brite® creations: file-1

The participants then needed to describe why they did the picture they did and reveal something about themselves and their own leadership journey. This prompted an amazing discussion. I have included the graphic recording by Sita Magnuson here:file1-1

What Will You Reveal?

Your message won’t be bright if there is no light, but will chaos if all light is revealed. As a leader we need to take complex issues and deliver them in an understanding manner. We need to be adaptive leaders and make adjustments/orientations according to context. There is value in vulnerability and authenticity. This opens the door to dialogue and community. We decided in our discussion that knowing decreases judging. We need to experience feeling, listening, seeing, and embodying. We must decide what we will reveal and break down the barriers that are not useful. How will you let your Lite shine?

What Do You Bring To The Table?

file1A couple of Saturday’s ago for our Focused Leader Academy (FLA) we used the mental model of food again. Participants decided to prepare breakfast and tell their story. This was pretty special and really meant a lot. I was struck by the fact that these teachers who had been ISTEP (Indiana’s students achievement test) all week and were probably exhausted would want to do this, But, as always, they amazed me one more time.

What a spread! It was the most amazing breakfast buffet I had ever seen with: two kinds of bacon, cinnamon rolls, blueberry muffins, yogurt, biscuit and gravy casserole, bagels, cheesy potatoes, and lots lots more. I have put a picture of the buffet here for you to see, We have a practice of writing on the table butcher paper and on the breakfast buffet table someone had written the statement, “What do you bring to the table?” This of course then became the theme for the discussion. file 5

So what does it mean to bring something to the table? I believe it means to ​provide something that will be a ​benefit. Just like the fact that I believe everyone is a leader, I also believe everyone brings something to the table. Essentially, your list of what you bring to the table should reflect your best qualities, and that is what you should be offering to an organization, school, or business. Is what you are offering equal to what you are expecting? Do you consider what you have to offer those you lead, or merely what your team is offering YOU?

Leadership is about taking care of those you lead. Leadership is serving others. It is involving others in setting and achieving their own goals or the group goals. Leadership includes learning from mistakes and growing from them. Leadership is about having a positive impact on anyone we cross paths with. Leadership is contagious. If we can do these things, we are offering quite the leadership buffet to our organizations.

It was so great that Saturday to have Mike Fleisch, Sita Magnuson, and Kelvy Bird all present to graphic record the discussion presented by the FLA members about their food. It is the first time they had ever worked at an event all together. These are amazingly talented individuals, thought leaders, community leaders, and facilitation conveners. I have embedded a photo of the graphic here:file2Just like the awesome selection and choices that a breakfast brings us, the more different people become leaders, the more problems we will solve. The more skills, interest, and expertise that will be brought to the table. We need leaders to think about and organize around many issues beyond those of our organizations and schools like: youth development, economic growth, substance abuse, crime, the environment, health care — the list goes on and on. Each issue will require a troop of skilled leaders to handle them. We need leaders who are women, young people (we were all young once), people of color, low -income people, immigrants, people with disabilities and many others that have been told that they should follow others, not lead. We need leadership from all walks of life in order for ours to be a truly democratic society. Remember, we are all leaders!

You have to make a decision to lead and view yourself as a leader. No one else can contribute what you can. You have a point of view that no one else has. You have a set of skills that is unique. Your corner of the world will be different if you decide to act on its behalf.

How has your organization benefited from having you in leadership roles? What do you bring to the table? Are you showing value in your current role?

Share the Financials – the $100 Tool

culture_works_fbad_1This is a guest post from Kris Boesch originally published on www.choosepeople.com/blog

Share the Financials – the $100 Tool

Be open with your team about the flow of money. Sharing tells employees they’re important. Commitment grows and confusion declines.

Every year in an all-company meeting I would share our financials with the team using the $100 Tool (described below). It was amazing to see the light bulbs go on. Their entire awareness and attitude would shift. They would come up to me for weeks after this meeting with ideas on how to make and save the company money. They now realized why it was so important to take care of the trucks (cost of truck repairs) and to charge customers for boxes (high margin product) and not to forget moving blankets at the customer’s home ($13/each – easily four hours worth of profit.)

Some organizations are worried about sharing their financials, either because they’re struggling or very successful. Sharing financials when you’re in trouble is the only way engage your employees’ support. It helps them understand the urgency in your voice. Your employees aren’t stupid. They know if something’s off. Sharing the financials puts fears to rest because rather than grappling with the unknown, they can see what you see and participate in generating money making and saving solutions.

If you’re on the flip side and very successful and fear employees will want a bigger piece of the pie, communicate your growth plan and the need for cash to fund investments in equipment, technology, personnel or assets. Rather than envisioning all the extra money going into your pocket, they see it as a shared savings account. If you’re not looking to grow, make sure your people are well compensated and appreciated. This may also be a good time to share the risks and rewards of owning a business.

Use the $100 Tool to share your financials in a tangible, accurate, concrete way.

  1. Get one hundred one dollar bills.
  2. On a flip chart or white board break down by percentage your high-level income streams:$43 – local moves, $37 – national moves, $12 – storage, $5 – boxes, $3 – insurance. On another page or board break down by percentage your high-level expenses (fuel, truck repairs, truck maintenance, furniture repairs, regulatory fees, marketing and networking, utilities, insurance, rent, payroll – including workers compensation, payroll taxes, and benefits.
  3. Speak about how your organization makes money. Share which verticals, products and services are the most and least profitable. Explain why you choose to keep those that are less profitable — (loss leader, bread and butter, competitive edge.
  4. Then speak about expenses. As you detail each expense, hand out the dollar bills to individual employees. Saying for example:
    You are my landlord you receive $4 for rent.
    You are my accountant you receive $2.
    You are my utilities you receive $5.
  5. Speak to employee payroll, payroll taxes, work comp and benefits last. Employees are always wowed by the comparatively large piece of the pie that is directly theirs.
  6. Then show them, with the dollars left in your hand, how much profit is left.  Explain this profit is taxed, leaving a net profit and how that money has to be used to pay off debt as well as to reinvest in the company to spur growth. Explain how it is this money – the money that’s left over – that funds raises, better benefits, new uniforms, additional staff, or new equipment.
  7. Help them understand which numbers they can impact and which ones they can’t. You want them to leave knowing how they individually can help the organization make and save money.
  8. Depending on your team, it can also be valuable to explain the difference between profit and cash available. You may want to share the role of revenue to profit. Clarify that without profit, revenue is wheel spinning. Small increases in revenue beyond goal can cause exponential increases in profit due to the relatively static nature of overhead costs.

Owners tend to wonder how to represent their compensation when sharing financials. In the process I recommend above, simply roll your compensation into payroll. By being open with your team, you can begin to create a culture of honesty.

*****

Kris Boesch is the CEO and founder of Choose People, a company that transforms company cultures, increases employee happiness and boosts the bottom line. Her new book, Culture Works, and accompanying workbook are available now on her website and will be available on Amazon around May 15.

Six Kinds Of Procrastinators, And How To Help Them Deliver

why-you-procrastinate

Originally published on the Lead Change Instigator Blog

Six Kinds Of Procrastinators, And How To Help Them Deliver
By Nate Regier

In college, I used to put off studying, often until the night before the exam. Why? You might be surprised. Not because I was worried. Not because I was lazy. Not because I didn’t like studying. Not even because I had more interesting things to do. Nope. I did it because it didn’t get exciting enough until time was running out. Call me crazy, but I did my best work under the gun.

Observe several people procrastinate and they may look similar on the surface. They put off making decisions or completing important tasks, and that’s a problem. It delays progress, holds others up, and increases the chance of mistakes. Why do people do this?

It may be easy to jump to the conclusion that procrastinators are lazy or lack discipline. Very often nothing could be further from the truth.

Procrastination is strongly influenced by personality type. Why should you care? Because knowing this can help you understand your own procrastination tendencies and have a better idea what to do about it. As a friend, parent, leader, mentor, or coach you’ll be better equipped to help others in the most constructive ways.

In no particular order, here are six kinds of procrastinators along with tips for how to help them deliver on time.

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAjBAAAAJDE2MmZmNWQ1LTM4MjItNGU1ZC05YWNjLTk1MzJhMGEyZWQyZgType #1: Pleasers

Pleasers procrastinate for fear of conflict, disapproval or rejection. If they run out of time, maybe you’ll feel sorry for them and give them a break.

How to help the Pleaser: Reassure these people that you care about them regardless of the decision they make or the outcome of their efforts. Affirm that even if they make a mistake, mistakes are opportunities to learn and grow and you will be with them through it all. When conflict-avoidant Pleasers know they are unconditionally supported and OK they are more confident to move forward, even with difficult decisions and actions.

Type #2: Perfection-Seekers

Perfection-Seekers procrastinate until there is more data or more evidence. These people suffer from analysis paralysis and fear the loss of control that comes with making a decision or taking action.

How to help the Perfection-Seeker: Affirm these people’s thinking ability and problem-solving skills. Help them weigh pros and cons, anticipate consequences, and develop a “Plan B.” Ultimately, Perfection-Seekers need support to face the sadness and loss of control that comes with making decisions. Encourage and support them to let go and move on when more information will not help them feel any more secure.

Type #3: Responsibility Avoiders

Responsibility-Avoiders procrastinate to avoid taking ownership or having to live up to expectations. If they run out of time, it’s not their fault.

How to help the Responsibility-Avoider: Above all, avoid judging or preaching about responsibility. They key is to balance a “chill” attitude with clarity around what you want them to do. Let them know you’ll accept them unconditionally regardless of the outcome and affirm their creativity in finding their own way from point A to B.

Type #4: Thrill Seekers

Thrill-Seekers procrastinate until the stakes are high enough to make it exciting. That was me in college! If they run out of time, they’ll try to pin it on someone else.

How to help a Thrill-Seeker: Play to their strengths – make it thrilling. If you want them to meet a deadline, make it exciting by issuing a dare or prize. Challenge them to “pull it off,” make it a special assignment that only they can do. I once had a Thrill-Seeker working for me in training support. When I tried to plan ahead with her, it ended up in procrastination. I learned to wait until the last minute to give her assignments and it worked like a charm.

Type #5: Hostage Takers

Hostage-Takers procrastinate on giving approval or being satisfied. They confuse high standards with unrealistic expectations and hold others hostage with their chronic discontent. Pleasers and Perfection-Seekers are particularly vulnerable to the Hostage-Taker’s traps.

How to help a Hostage-Taker: Recognize that beneath it all is a noble desire for excellence and high-quality. Hostage-Takers are natural protectors and want to help others be more perfect. Replace this negative energy by affirming their convictions and dedication to quality. Ask proactive questions about their standards and expectations, and invite their opinions along the way.

Type #6: Passive-Avoiders

Passive-Avoiders procrastinate because they don’t feel potent enough to make an independent decision.

How to help a Passive-Avoider: Avoid questioning their intentions or commitment. They are externally motivated and greatly appreciate clear direction. They are more responsive than responsible, more directable than self-directed. Use clear, concise commands to find out what they have on their plate, and then direct them towards clear action steps.

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About Dr. Nate Regier


Dr. Nate Regier is the co-founding owner and chief executive officer of Next Element, a global advisory firm specializing in building cultures of compassionate accountability. A former practicing psychologist, Regier is an expert in social-emotional intelligence and leadership, positive conflict, mind-body-spirit health, neuropsychology, group dynamics, interpersonal and leadership communication, executive assessment and coaching, organizational development, team building and change management. An international adviser, he is a certified Leading Out of Drama master trainer, Process Communication Model® certifying master trainer and co-developer of Next Element’s Leading Out of Drama® training and coaching. Nate has published two books: Beyond Drama and his latest work, Conflict without Casualties.

Prepare Thoroughly Before You Begin

2943db3662439efb1c6664f1025cb4bePrepare Thoroughly Before You Begin
By Brian Tracy

The following post is an excerpt from chapter 9 of Eat That Frog.

A word about frogs… It has been said that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long. Your “frog” is your biggest, most important task, the one you are most likely to procrastinate on if you don’t do something about it. It is also the one task that can have the greatest positive impact on your life and results at the moment.51DFpUVGkQL

Prepare Thoroughly Before You Begin

One of the best ways for you to overcome procrastination and get more things done faster is to have everything you need at hand before you begin. When you are fully prepared, you are like a cocked gun or an archer with an arrow pulled back taut in the bow. You will be amazed at what you achieve in the months and years ahead. You just need one small mental push to get started on your highest-value tasks.

This is like getting everything ready to prepare a complete meal. You set all the ingredients out on the counter in front of you and then begin putting the meal together, one step at a time.

Begin by clearing off your desk or workspace so that you have only one task in front of you. If necessary, put everything else on the floor or on a table behind you.

Gather all the information, reports, details, papers, and work materials that you will require to complete the job. Have them at hand so you can reach them without getting up or moving around. Be sure that you have all the writing materials, log-in information, access codes, e-mail addresses, and everything else you need to start working and continue working until the job is done.

Set up your work area so that it is comfortable, attractive, and conducive to working for long periods. Especially, make sure that you have a comfortable chair that supports your back and allows your feet to rest flat on the floor.

The most productive people take the time to create a work area where they enjoy spending time. The cleaner and neater you organize your work area before you begin, the easier it will be for you to get started and keep going.

When everything is laid out neatly and in sequence, you will feel much more like getting on with the job.

It is amazing how many books never get written, how many degrees never get completed, how many life-changing tasks never get started because people fail to take the first step of preparing everything in advance.

Once you have completed your preparations, it is essential that you launch immediately toward your goals. Get started. Do the first thing, whatever it is.

My personal rule is “Get it 80 percent right and then correct it later.” Run it up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes. Don’t expect perfection the first time or even the first few times. Be prepared to fail over and over before you get it right.

Wayne Gretzky, the great hockey player, once said, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” Once you have completed your preparations, have the courage to take the first action, and everything else will follow from that. The way you develop the courage you need is to act as if you already had the courage and behave accordingly.

When you sit down with everything in front of you, ready to go, assume the body language of high performance. Sit up straight; sit forward and away from the back of the chair. Carry yourself as though you were an efficient, effective, high-performing personality. Then, pick up the first item and say to yourself, “Let’s get to work!” and plunge in. And once you’ve started, keep going until the job is finished.

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Brian Tracy is one of the top business speakers in the world today. He has designed and presented seminars for more than 1,000 large companies and more than 10,000 small and medium- sized enterprises in 75 countries on the subjects of Leadership, Management, Professional Selling, Business Model Reinvention, and Profit Improvement. He has addressed more than 5,000,000 people in more than 5,000 talks and presentations worldwide. He currently speaks to 250,000 people per year. His fast-moving, entertaining video-based training programs are taught in 38 countries.

Brian is a bestselling author. In addition to Eat That Frog, Brian has written more than 80 books that have been translated into 42 languages, including Kiss That Frog!, Find Your Balance Point, Goals!, Flight Plan, Maximum Achievement, No Excuses!, Advanced Selling Strategies, and How the Best Leaders Lead. He is happily married, with four children and five grandchildren. He is the president of Brian Tracy International and lives in Solana Beach, California. He can be reached at briantracy@briantracy.com.

Leading Like A Thunderbird!

thunderbirdsRVMOn our way home from The Gulf on our spring break with my family we saw the B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber flying over Maxwell Airforce Base in Montgomery, Alabama. This was an awesome sight of power and technological superiority. We then saw the US Air Force Thunderbirds. We were memorized by the many formations, maneuvers, and acrobatics. This was all part of the Maxwell Air Show & Open House held April 8-9, 2017. We were fortunate enough to be traveling through at just the right time.

The pilots of America’s military demonstration team, the US Air Force Thunderbirds, are some of the world’s best, performing death-defying tricks in fighter jets. While the individual skills of each pilot is admirable, what sets the pilots of the Thunderbirds apart is their ability to work as a synchronized team.

img_0136-2-1024x684I did a little research and found the mission of the Thunderbirds. Officially, the Thunderbirds are known as the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron. The squadron’s mission is to plan and present precision aerial maneuvers to exhibit the capabilities of modern, high-performance aircraft and the high degree of professional skill required to operate those aircraft. Within this broad mission, the team has five primary objectives:

  • Support Air Force recruiting and retention programs
  • Reinforce public confidence in the Air Force and to demonstrate to the public theprofessional competence of Air Force members
  • Strengthen morale and esprit de corps among Air Force members
  • Support Air Force community relations and people-to-people programs
  • Represent the United States and its armed forces to foreign nations and project international goodwill

The Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon represents the full range of capabilities possessed by the Air Force’s tactical fighters. This highly-maneuverable multi-role fighter has proved to be one of the world’s best precision tactical bombers and air-to-air combat aircraft. The only modifications needed to prepare aircraft for air demonstrations are a smoke-generating system and painting in Thunderbird colors. The Thunderbirds are actually part of our combat force. This squadron must be ready for actual missions at a moments notice.maxresdefault

As I watched the precision of the maneuvers, I was awestruck by how this team of pilots could fly just one or two foot away from each other at MACH 2 speeds. It was amazing! Then I thought about how this was the ultimate example of leading teams and team cohesion. This team of pilots must be both familiar with each other and trust each other. Trust is about reliability and doing the right thing. Trust is a characteristic that builds respect and loyalty, as well as a supportive and safe work environment. I can only imagining the practice that it takes to build the familiarity and to fly as Thunderbird or be a part of the team on the ground.

Even though most of us do not have the thrill and danger of travel inches apart in aircraft going at MACH speeds, all leaders and teams must study fear, understand it, and be prepared to cope with it. I say it all the time – we must have some fear and be uncomfortable in order to grow professionally. Like fear, courage takes many forms, from a stoic courage born of reasoned calculation to a fierce courage born of heightened emotion. Experience under fire generally increases courage, as can realistic training by lessening the mystique of what we are doing.

So, just as I imagine all the practice and real-life maneuvering that goes into the Thunderbirds work, we must all strive to learn in the real time/real world context of what we do. Strong leadership which earns the respect and trust of team limits the effects of fear. Leaders should develop unit cohesion and the self-confidence of individuals within the team. In this environment a team member’s unwillingness to violate the respect and trust of his peers will overcome personal fear. This is why we must help our team members to be comfortable with being uncomfortable and get out of their comfort zone to learn new maneuvers and give great performance. Are you leading like the Thunderbirds?

 

Thanks For Not Being An Expert

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My Awesome Delta Flight Attendant!

I wrote the following post yesterday during a day of flight delays trying to get to Pensacola, Florida to ultimately hook up with my family. Literally, I wrote the post in the cover of the book I am reading by Frederick (Rick) M. Hess, Letters to a Young Education Reformer. This post came to mind as I was reading the chapter entitled, “Why You Shouldn’t Put Too Much Faith In Experts.” Here’s what I wrote in the cover of the book:

Thanks For Not Being An Expert

I was inspired to write this post, honestly, by my flight attendant. She kept me up to date on what was going on during a day riddled with delays and cancellations. I had started the process in the afternoon yesterday when my flight to Atlanta was cancelled. I then started the process at 6:30 this morning and had been cancelled and delayed again until 12 noon when we finally got on the plane. I now did not think I was going to make my connection in Atlanta to get picked up by my wife and son in Pensacola, Florida. It might not have been quite as big a deal except for the fact that my son, Heath, and I were scheduled to go bow fishing tonight. rick_hess_book_portrait

For the trip I had brought along my friend, Rick Hess’s new book,  Letters to a Young Education Reformer. It is an awesome book and while sitting on a delayed plane I read the chapter “Why You Shouldn’t Put Too Much Faith In Experts.” As a guy that does not really believe in using experts, subject matter experts (SMEs), or consultants, I loved this chapter. Really, it’s not that experts are bad, but we just shouldn’t rely on their word as the final word. As Rick says, “I’ve found that experts often forget that their expertise represents just a tiny sliver of the world, and thus overestimate how much they know and what it can tell us. And that can cause problems” (p. 32).

My flight attendant let me know that my connecting flight had been delayed in Atlanta. She was not sure why we were not taking off, but she would see if she could find out and would keep me posted. Keep in mind, I was about the only friendly person on the plane. With so many flight cancellations and delays from the rash of storms across the south and eastern seaboard, everyone was struggling to get where they needed to be. The airlines were struggling to get pilots and flight crews where they needed to be.

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First Draft of This Post Written In The Cover of Letters to a Young Education Reformer

Here’s the deal; my great flight attendant did not try to be an expert, nor did she even want to be an expert. She was a great example of what I believe we should all strive to do – not give blind guesses or speculate. She certainly had flown enough to be considered an expert, but she did not try to baffle me with expertise or make assumptions based on past experiences like this one. Instead she impressed me by leading with clarity, not certainty! She used the tools and information available to keep me informed of my circumstances. As the expert flight attendant, she did the precise task, using her available information and training to keep me informed of what was going on. When I got to Atlanta she let me know we were at Terminal F, Gate 1 and that I needed to go to Terminal C, Gate 41. She also assured me I was going to make it because my connector flight had been delayed and I now had 1 hour and 10 minutes to make it on the plane. Just like with airline industry schedules, in education we don’t always have a lot of certainty as to what will work, we just need to strive for clarity. 51bHghz6ihL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

Remember, the experts get it wrong all the time. The reality that when people become emotionally invested in their predictions, they cannot see straight—no matter how experienced or educated or smart they are. They become blind to other view points or the actual facts of the situation. All too many times experts begin speculating on past experiences and not the situation at hand. In his new book, “Stop Guessing: The 9 Behaviors of Great Problem Solvers,” Nat Greene calls this the “Expert Curse of Knowledge.” Experts think they know things and then don’t look at all the options. Experts should never be put in a position where their opinion means more than yours.

Are you acting too much like an expert or spending too much time listening and following experts?